People often ask me how I get ideas for sermons. I read a lot of things. I ask God for direction. I try to think about what people are going through in their lives and what the Bible has to say about those things. And sometimes my own life experiences prompts me to write a sermon. And I think, “if I need to hear this, most likely, others do too.” I usually preach these messages to myself, before I preach them to you. And just as God may speak to you when I preach, So He often speaks to sermons I prepare. As I sat down to write this week’s message I wrote down in large letters at the top of the page, FRUSTRATION. Because it seems like everything that used to be easy is much harder lately.
Frustration due to increased difficulty in making plans
Is anyone feeling my pain this morning? Has 2020 proved to be as frustrating for you as it has for me? And I think that frustration arises from the increased difficulty in making plans.
I believe that God has exactly the right people on our Church Board. Because everyone of them is focused on just making thinks work the best we possibly can for you while dealing with constantly changing circumstances and being super flexible. But the other night we were simply trying to plan a Christmas Eve Service. And we worked through several options. None of them were optimal. If we had it our way, we would have an in-person service in this auditorium like we have done for the last few years. But as someone said, “There is no room at the INN” for the larger crowds we may draw on Christmas Eve. Now while a streaming-only might be the easiest for us, there is value in being able to get together if we can do it safely. I believe meeting in person is spiritually and emotionally healthy. Some of you come to service looking pretty beat up but often leave with smile. I think that is worth something. And so we will have an outdoor service this year so we can meet in person, without crowding together. We agreed, it isn’t the solution we want, but it is the best we can safely offer. Can I get the Board members to stand so that you can recognize them. I’m am truly blessed to have them and so are you!
Frustration because of messed up plans.
Many of you had your vacation plans messed up. Others had family plans messed up. The kids were planning to go back to school. Loudoun County just messed up your plans. I imagine that many of you had career plans and business plans that were messed up this year. That is both disappointing and frustrating.
How can Christ-followers respond to messed up plans?
So how are Christ-followers supposed to deal with life when our plans are messed up plans. Are we supposed pout and be angry? Are we supposed to whine and complain? Are we suppose to be depressed and walk around defeated our heads down? No. Whenever life down here on Earth isn’t good, God calls us to look up to Him. The Bible says,
“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God— soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.”Psalm 42:5 (The Message)
Circle “fix my eyes on God”. When you are down, God invites you to look to Him for answers, help and hope. Today we will look at three different frustrating scenarios, three different ways that your plans can get messed up and how looking to God can defeat your frustration.
When God messes up your plans: Trust Him
Sometimes God messes up your plans. Many of you are planners. Others fly by the seat of your pants and you like it that way. Some of you planners are married to spouses who like to fly by the seat of their pants. That will make the first few decades of your marriage interesting. And God is a planner too. The Bible says,
“This plan of mine is not what you would work out, neither are my thoughts the same as yours!”Isaiah 55:8 (The Living Bible)
And so if you are a planner, it is likely that Your plans and God’s plans will come into conflict.And guess what? In a test of wills, God always wins, and so you may find that God messes up your plans.
God messed up Mary and Joseph’s plans
In the Christmas story, we find that God messed up Mary and Joseph’s plans. They were planning to get married, have a home together and start making some little Marys and little Josephs. But God messed up their plans. The Bible says,
”… but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.”Matthew 1:18 (NIV84)
Circle “but” God “butted” into their planning meeting. God messed up their plans. God had another plan.
“And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”Matthew 1:19–20(NASB95)
Again Circle “but” After the first plan didn’t work out, Jospeh formulated a new plan. God “butted” in again. God messed up Joseph’s plan because God had another plan.
Not only did God mess up their plans, but God’s plan was going to make life much more difficult. Some of the difficulty they already knew. Being pregnant before marriage was a big problem in their culture. They would be social outcasts and Joseph would be subject of lifelong ridicule. I can only imagine how hard that was. Nevertheless, God messed up Mary and Joseph’s plans knowing full well that it would make life more difficult for them.
How does God mess up your plans?
I think it is the same way that God messed up Mary and Joseph’s plans. God’s plans for your life call you to live and give sacrificially.
A call to serve in the church will change your plans. There is no convenient way to serve God. It requires energy, effort and time. And these come at the expense of your plans and your plans for your family. A call into the ministry isn’t easy. It complicates your life and it will cost you and your family. And like Joseph there will be some kind of internal struggle that tests your faith. Do you really believe that God is worth it? Do you really believe God can use you? Do you really trust Him to help you?
Why should you let God mess up your plans? Eternal Rewards
Most people want their life to be easier and less complicated- Not harder and more complicated. We like convenience and comfort. So why let God mess up your plans with difficulty? Well the answer is for eternal rewards. When we let God mess up our plans, He is really offering you the opportunity for eternal rewards. Paul the Apostle put it this way,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.”2 Timothy 4:7–8 (NLT)
Circle,“on the day of His return” Last week we talked about Jesus’ return and the rewards He wants us to give you. When God messes up your plans, by calling you to serve or give, it is so that He can reward you.
How should you respond when God messes up your plans? Obey immediately
So what do you do when God messes up your plans? Let’s look at Joseph’s example. The Bible says,
“When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.”Matthew 1:24 (NLT)
Circle “when Joseph woke up” God sent an angel messenger to Joseph in a dream. God told Him not be afraid to take Mary for His wife. She hadn’t been unfaithful, the child was God’s Son. Somehow Joseph became convinced- that is faith. Joseph’s faith was tested and He believed. And so as soon as Joseph
When God calls you to give or serve don’t put it off. Procrastination increases frustration. You will get stuck between what you want to do and what you know God wants you to do. Guilt, doubt and regret all add to frustration, they don’t relieve it. When God messes us up your with His plans, just obey immediately.
When others mess up your plans: Consider Him
Now here is a second source of frustration. Sometimes other people or circumstances mess up your plans. Many of you had your vacation plans messed up this year. Others had family plans messed up. The kids were planning to go back to school and this week Loudoun County Public Schools just changed your plans. That is disappointing and frustrating for both parents and children. So how does the Christmas story help us to defeat that kind of Frustration.
Mary and Joseph’s life together was already made difficult by the unplanned pregnancy. But just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, there was an unplanned trip. In Mary’s ninth month, they had to travel over 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. That would be about 4 day journey. And they had to go. The Government mandated it. How many of you like Government Mandates?
And if Mary and Joseph were anything like you and me, they had to be wondering, “why God?” It was bad enough that you messed up our wedding plans, but why do we have to make this long trip? A 4-day journey in those days wasn’t easy in the first place. But“why now”in the last week of Pregnancy? And then to make matters worse, they couldn’t even find a place to stay. So they had to sleep in the barn. Well Mary and Joseph probably didn’t know why. And you might not even know why. But God had a reason for this very trip at that very time. The Bible says,
“While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby,”Luke 2:6, (NCV)
Circle “the time came”Because of the Census, Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem at the very time that Jesus was born. And this was important because 720 years earlier the Prophet Micah said,
“O Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are but a small Judean village, yet you will be the birthplace of my King who is alive from everlasting ages past!”Micah 5:2 (The Living Bible)
Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth. But the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem. God simply used the Governor to make that happen. Sometimes God uses people and circumstances to mess up your plans to bring about His Bigger plan. And just as. The Bible says,
…for he [God] chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.”Ephesians 1:11(NLT)
Circle “work out.” We serve a God who has a way of making things work out for us. He takes the good and bad and works things out for you.There is great line in a movie I once watched. “We know everything is good in the end. When things are not good, it can’t be the end.”
Circle “everything” Just as Mary and Joseph probably had no idea why their trip to Bethlehem was necessary, sometimes we can’t understand the reason for our frustration. But God assures us that No person and can mess up His plans for your life. No one. No circumstance can mess up God’s plans for your life. Nothing! People can do bad things. Circumstances can be frustrating. But we serve a God who always works things out.
When you mess up the plan. Return to Him
“We have identified the enemy and it is us” I don’t know who said it first, but maybe you can relate to the sentiment. Sometimes we mess things up. And there is frustration of thinking that you have messed up so badly that you can’t recover. Or it’s too late to change or recover. It’s too hard or too much to ask. Like the Angel told Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God.”
You probably know the story of the wise men, on a spiritual journey to find a Baby whom they believe to be Israel’s Promised Messiah- a Jewish King following a star. More than one of the preaching helps I use, make note of the fact that the wise men started out their spiritual journey in faith-following this supernatural light, but then substituted human reason when they approached Jerusalem. Perhaps they simply assumed that the New King would be born in the palace of the existing King. Unfortunately, their wrong turn tipped off Herod and caused all sorts of trouble for the people fo Bethlehem. But God wasn’t done with them. The Bible says,
“Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child.”Matthew 2:9 (The Message)
And when they returned to their original journey, the star reappeared to them. In other words, God gave them a second chance. We serve a God who offers second chances.
Sometimes we mess up the Plan that God has for our lives. We stop trusting, or stop believing or stop obeying. In fact, the Bible is filled with stories of people like that. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, King David and the Apostle Peter are just a few names that come to mind. For Christ followers, there are no dead-ends. Every day God offers u-turns because we serve a God who offers second chances. The Bible says,
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”1 John 1:9 (NIV84)
Circle “He is faithful” This means that He can be depended on. He is faithful even when we are not. God promises to forgive and cleanse those who simply confess their sins to Him. This means that whenever and however you mess things up, you can always return to Him.
Maybe be you are listening today and need a second chance, or another second chance or a hundredth second chance. God has one for you. He is faithful.